Article ID: CBB001510262

The Cult of Amphioxus in German Darwinism; or, Our Gelatinous Ancestors in Naples' Blue and Balmy Bay (2015)


Hopwood, Nick (Author)

History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Volume: 36, no. 3
Issue: 3
Pages: 371-393

Publication Date: 2015
Edition Details: Part of a Series: Crossroads between nature and culture: Papers in honour of Christiane Groeben
Language: English

Biologists having rediscovered amphioxus, also known as the lancelet or Branchiostoma, it is time to reassess its place in early Darwinist debates over vertebrate origins. While the advent of the ascidian--amphioxus theory and challenges from various competitors have been documented, this article offers a richer account of the public appeal of amphioxus as a primitive ancestor. The focus is on how the `German Darwin' Ernst Haeckel persuaded general magazine and newspaper readers to revere this “flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood”, and especially on Das neue Laienbrevier des Haeckelismus (The new lay breviary of Haeckelism) by Moritz Reymond with cartoons by Fritz Steub. From the late 1870s these successful little books of verse introduced the Neapolitan discoveries that made the animal's name and satirized Haeckel's rise as high priest of its cult. One song is reproduced and translated here, with a contemporary “imitation” by the Canadian palaeontologist Edward John Chapman, and extracts from others. Predating the American “It's a long way from amphioxus” by decades, these rhymes dramatize neglected `species politics' of Darwinism and highlight the roles of humour in negotiating evolution.

Included in

Article Bernardi, Giorgio; Fantini, Bernardino; Dröscher, Ariane (2015) Crossroads between Nature and Culture: An Introduction. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences (pp. 301-304). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Gliboff, Sander Joel
Richards, Robert John
Cuddy, Lois A.
Roche, Claire M.
Kleeberg, Bernhard
Wetzel, Nadine
Annals of the History and Philosophy of Biology
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Science in Context
Filosofia e História da Biologia
Journal of Experimental Zoology. Part B, Molecular and Developmental Evolution
Bucknell University Press
MIT Press
University of Chicago Press
Cambridge University Press
Palgrave Macmillan
M. Suhrkamp
Science and literature
Science and religion
Haeckel, Ernst
Darwin, Charles Robert
London, Jack
Howells, William Dean
Ward, Lester Frank
Bronn, Heinrich Georg
Time Periods
19th century
20th century, early
20th century
United States
Great Britain
Ernst-Haeckel-Haus, Jena
Panepistēmio Athēnōn

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